Our life doesn’t have to be going great to experience joy. Even when things are going well, it is easy to take it all for granted. Whenever I am able to live with an awareness of God’s presence, even when things are bad, I can sense this joy. Most often, it is our response to life and our outlook on our pain that determines our attitude. Here are five practices that will improve your response to problems, and put a spring in your step.
- Be Grateful
If you find that gratitude is a challenge at times, and let’s face it, faking it doesn’t really count, try saying this old prayer.
Thou hast given so much to me,
Give one thing more – a grateful heart,
Not thankful when it pleases me,
As if Thy blessings had spare days;
But such a heart, whose pulse may be Thy praise.
- Be Optimistic
A positive outlook, it is fair to say, is a much more helpful way to live. For instance, studies show that optimists are generally healthier. However, being a realist, my heart needs reassurances; so I remind myself that because God is good, and because His love for me is great, all will be well. This reminder truly helps me to stay positive.
- Count Your Blessings
My mind goes back to an old hymn we used to sing, “Count your blessings name them one by one, and it will surprise you what the Lord has done.” Memory is a powerful ally when we are tempted to despair. We could learn this practice by doing what my great grandmother did in her rocking chair each night:
“What are you doing?”, my Mom would ask her.
“I’m collecting my thoughts,” she would say.
Saint Ignatius spiritual practice of reviewing the day, is a way we recall the good of our days, and place value on the blessing of being alive.
- Use Your Gifts
A man’s gift makes room for him and brings him before the great. Prov. 18:16
When we practice the things we are most naturally good at and enjoy doing, we will feel so much better about ourselves, than when we try to force ourselves to fit into someone else’s mold. When family and friends are gathered in our home, I’m in my element when I’m helping prep the meal, serve the coffee, or fix up a tasty dessert. I don’t resent it, I enjoy it; and of course my wife appreciates it too. What is your gift? Please share it, be blessed and be a blessing.
- Share With Others
It is truly more blessed to give than to receive. There is great joy in living for the benefit of others.
History shows that people who put others first are the ones we remember and are inspired by. Our chief example of this is Jesus of whom the Bible says, “For the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.” (Heb. 12:2)
We will experience some of this unspeakable joy while we lay down ourselves for one another. This is not doormat theology, but rather it is a daily practice, refreshed and refilled by God’s love.